Students who had planned to study abroad are now staring at the uncertainty that the deadly Covid-19 wave has created, jeopardising prospects of their advanced studies. Thousands of students who were planning to study abroad find themselves stuck in a similar predicament as last year due to the pandemic. As most countries have banned Indian travellers from entering with visa offices and embassies remain shut, now almost all universities in the US and Europe have added a 'vaccine clause' making it compulsory for students to show proof of vaccination before attending classes.
"As things get back to normal across the world, uncertainty continues in India. We don't know if we are going to be able to fly out or not. Visa offices are shut and there's vaccination shortage," said Srishti Sethi, student.
Srishti Sethi plans on attending a Masters in Digital Marketing course in the UK. She had planned this last year but the Coronavirus pandemic forced her to put it on the back burner as the UK university had resorted to online classes. This year again, her plans are jeopardised even though her choice of university will be teaching in person. A vaccine crunch in India, lockdown, an inevitable third wave have all left her prospects up in the air.
"I have taken the first dose of vaccine but my next dose is scheduled for August. I have to fly out in September and there's so little time to get everything done. Last year, I had an acceptance letter from Kings College but I decided to not take it up because the classes were online due to the pandemic. This year classes will happen in person but I don't know if I will be able to go because of the Coronavirus situation in India," said Srishti Sethi, student.
Several universities in the US, the UK and Canada are giving the option of a hybrid class to enable students from India to join online if they're unable to make it at the start of the semester.
Mandeep Singh Baccher, the Founder Director of study abroad education consultancy MindScan Education, feels many postgraduate students will end up deferring their offer this year as well. Missing out on 3-6 months of in-person experience is not worth it, he feels.
"A Masters' programme is typically one year or a maximum of two years in some cases. So, if in a one-year programme, you're studying online for 3-6 months then it does take away from the overall learning experience. So, what we have been suggesting to Masters' students is that they should opt for deferrals, securing their offer but postponing it to next year," said Bachher.
The situation is different for undergraduate students. While most undergrad courses are 3-4 years, students don't bother about starting online for a couple of months. But CBSE and Class 12 results are a problem in securing admissions abroad.
Vidhita Chandwani plans on studying Business Management at the University of Warwick. She is anxious about whether her UK university will accept a delay in CBSE results. With no date for exams fixed, class 12 students like her are left in the lurch.
"We don't know what CBSE plans to do finally. This has made the process even more tedious and stressful than it already is. In any case, our results are going to be delayed. I'm afraid about that hampering my study abroad plans," said Vidhita Chandwani, student.
Top universities in Canada have already written to students extending their offer to them irrespective of the uncertainty over the CBSE results. Education consultants are hopeful that other universities will also follow suit. "In addition to the pandemic, the postponement of CBSE exams has added to the confusion," said Baccher. "Universities in Canada have already written to students saying they will work with existing documents. We are hopeful that colleges in UK and Australia will also follow suit. The CBSE exams not happening is not up to the hands of individual students and they should not be made to face the consequences of that," he said.
Universities across the world have put in place strict Covid protocols like compulsory wearing of masks, vaccination, smaller classes and socially distanced campuses. More than the safety concerns during the pandemic, for Indian students it's a question of being able to reach there on time and deriving the maximum value and experience of studying abroad.